Vietnamese tourist ripped off in Sim Lim Square declines iPhone from fundraiser, leaves Singapore

Receipt for the food items purchased by Mr Gabriel Kang for Mr Thoai. -- PHOTO: GABRIEL KANG
Receipt for the food items purchased by Mr Gabriel Kang for Mr Thoai. -- PHOTO: GABRIEL KANG
Receipt for the iPhone 6 purchased at Mustafa Centre for Mr Thoai. -- PHOTO: GABRIEL KANG
Receipt for the iPhone 6 purchased at Mustafa Centre for Mr Thoai. -- PHOTO: GABRIEL KANG
Local food items that Mr Gabriel Kang bought and packed for Mr Thoai. -- PHOTO: GABRIEL KANG
Local food items that Mr Gabriel Kang bought and packed for Mr Thoai. -- PHOTO: GABRIEL KANG
Mr Gabriel Kang having a conversation with Mr Thoai. -- ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI
Mr Gabriel Kang having a conversation with Mr Thoai. -- ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI
Mr Gabriel Kang meeting Mr Thoai for the first time. -- ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI
Mr Gabriel Kang meeting Mr Thoai for the first time. -- ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI
Entrepreneur Gabriel Kang (right) approached Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai (left) and his three friends at Changi Airport Terminal 3 to surprise him with an iPhone and local delicacies such as kaya, bak kwa and chilli crab sauce. -- PHOTO: GABRIE
Entrepreneur Gabriel Kang (right) approached Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai (left) and his three friends at Changi Airport Terminal 3 to surprise him with an iPhone and local delicacies such as kaya, bak kwa and chilli crab sauce. -- PHOTO: GABRIEL KANG

SINGAPORE - The Vietnamese tourist who was allegedly cheated of $550 at a mobile phone shop in Sim Lim Square returned to Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.

But not before entrepreneur Gabriel Kang, 37, approached him and his three friends at Changi Airport Terminal 3 to surprise him with an iPhone and local delicacies such as kaya, bak kwa and chilli crab sauce.

While the group accepted the local specialities, they refused the phone despite Mr Kang's insistence, saying it was "a matter of principle".

Mr Pham Van Thoai, a factory worker who spoke some English, said through a translator: "I don't want to take more than what I lost. I don't deserve it."

Mr Kang, who started a donation drive on crowdfunding site Indiegogo to help Mr Thoai, raised more than $14,000 (US$11,000) within a day. The amount far exceeded his initial target of US$1,350, which he had planned to use to buy an iPhone 6 and local gifts for Mr Thoai.

At the airport, Mr Kang and Mr Thoai chatted amiably as the Singaporean urged him to accept the phone.

Mr Thoai repeatedly refused, saying that he appreciated the gesture, but could not do so as it was "not right". The hour-long exchange ended at about noon when Mr Thoai went into the departure hall.

 

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Mr Kang is now looking for a buyer for the silver 64GB iPhone 6 that he bought at Mustafa Shopping Centre at 2.30am on Friday. He had bought it at $1,538 - a more expensive price than the usual $1,288 - because time was running out on "Operation Ambush", he said. He found out about Mr Thoai's flight only on Thursday evening and the new iPhone was sold out at most places, he added.

The remaining money will be donated to a charity of Mr Thoai's choosing.

Mr Kang said: "I will make the transfer when I know which charity he decided on. The money will be accountable to the donors."

This was Mr Thoai's second visit to Singapore. He first came here 10 years ago.

He and his friends were supposed to spend a couple of days in Malaysia but changed their plans after the media attention.

Instead, they spent their remaining days in Singapore "doing touristy, but low-key stuff" before their flight yesterday afternoon.

He said: "I decided to come here because I was familiar with the place."

Mr Thoai did not talk about whether he will make another trip to Singapore.

He said: "I'm glad that this episode is closed for now. Now I just hope that this matter will not affect my life back in Vietnam or my country's image. That's my priority."

awcw@sph.com.sg

jalmab@sph.com.sg